Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich slideshow

For a man peering into the eye of a storm, Joachim Low cut a remarkably serene figure. He was unflappable as he fielded an array of pressing questions with that familiar stony-faced glint but did not pass up an opportunity to lighten the mood when the opportunity arose. A little later, the Germany coach did not appear to have a care in the world as he indulged in a few tricks and flicks in the centre circle on the Fisht Stadium pitch while his players warmed up ahead of their final training session before tomorrow night’s potentially pivotal game against Sweden. If only his team had exuded such calm and conviction in their opening match against Mexico last Sunday, a result more shocking for the manner of defeat than the actual loss itself, their position at this World Cup would not be so fragile. If Germany lose to Sweden here and Mexico avoid defeat in the earlier game against South Korea, the world champions will become the fourth holders in the past five tournaments to be eliminated at the group stage. In eight tournaments as either assistant coach or head coach of the Germans, Low has never exited before the semi-final stage, but the prospect of joining France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain (2014) on that list of cursed champions looms large. “Of course, as the title holder and as the Confederations Cup winner, the situation we face now is a different one,” Low said. “We’re in a position where everyone is highly motivated and determined to win against us, so it’s very difficult to maintain that motivation and hunger. That’s why in almost 100 years there are not many who have been able to retain the World Cup. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game “Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 were not able to dominate and repeat the feat. It’s clearly not easy to achieve it. We have to show a reaction [to the Mexico defeat]. We have to deliver. If we win, we’re back in the race and we’ll see how the tournament progresses after that. But talking about that now makes no sense at all. We cannot look beyond this game.” The fallout from the Mexico debacle has been brutal. Striker Mario Gomez likened the reaction back home to “an avalanche” and even Low admitted there was “a lot to digest” in the 48 hours that followed, although the fiercest criticism probably came from within the camp itself. A crisis meeting was held on Tuesday when frank words were exchanged between the players, Low and his staff and, publicly, there has been no attempt to mask their failings. Low is not prone to knee-jerk reactions but the poverty of his team’s display against Mexico, when they overcommitted in attack and left gaping holes for their opponents to exploit on the transition, clearly shocked him and he could make four or five changes against Sweden. One has been enforced. Mats Hummels damaged a vertebrae in his neck in training and is expected to be replaced by his Bayern Munich team-mate, Niklas Sule. Jonas Hector could come in for Marvin Plattenhardt at left-back, Marco Reus is likely to replace Julian Draxler on the left flank and Ilkay Gundogan may deputise for Sami Khedira. Timo Werner could retain Low’s trust up front, despite Gomez knocking on the door. Mesut Ozil was the target for the most sustained criticism but the Arsenal playmaker received a show of confidence from Low, who, for all his dismay at what he witnessed in Moscow, reminded Germany’s critics that the players were too experienced to allow one poor result to rock their confidence. “We’re all subject to criticism in terms of performance but this deep trust in players who have been playing three or four years at a top level will not be shaken by a single match,” he said. “They’ve won titles, so why should that change on the basis of one match? It’s not just Mesut Ozil, all the players received their fair share of criticism. But as far as Mesut Ozil is concerned, everyone knows I hold him in high esteem. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage “We need people who go deep, vertical, who invest in running the full distance and cutting into opposing lines. We can’t do that by simply pinging the ball into the box. High balls, aerial play, Sweden will thank us for that so we need something different.” Sweden, who beat South Korea 1-0 in their opening match thanks to captain Andreas Granqvist’s penalty, had their own problems on the eve of this match. Defenders Pontus Jansson and Filip Helander and midfielder Marcus Rohden did not travel with the rest of the squad to Sochi this morning after being struck down by a stomach bug overnight. Janne Andersson was keen to avoid the risk of any other players falling ill, but given that the affected trio were not expected to start against Germany anyway, the problem was not as troubling for the Sweden coach as it might otherwise have been. The Swedes, who beat Italy in a play-off to reach the finals in Russia, have struck a bullish tone but Andersson dismissed any notion of overconfidence and urged his team to play the game of their lives. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article “I think hubris is probably what we’re least afflicted by,” Janssen said. “This is what you spend your entire life and career working towards. It’s quite amazing, Germany were the big favourites ahead of tournament but we have the prospect of beating them to [potentially] knock them out and qualify for second stage. I don’t think many people could have imagined that.” Sweden are a defensive, compact, physically imposing side who like to break and try to punish opponents on the counter-attack. Germany had a dreadful time dealing with Mexico’s speed on the transition but Low is confident there will be no repeat. “We’ve talked about that a lot – how can we avoid fast breaks on the counter attack,” he said. “We had numerous matches in qualifying against teams with a very defensive style. I am convinced the players will show a reaction.” They will have to.
Crisis? What crisis? Germany coach Joachim Low keeps calm ahead of crunch tie with Sweden
For a man peering into the eye of a storm, Joachim Low cut a remarkably serene figure. He was unflappable as he fielded an array of pressing questions with that familiar stony-faced glint but did not pass up an opportunity to lighten the mood when the opportunity arose. A little later, the Germany coach did not appear to have a care in the world as he indulged in a few tricks and flicks in the centre circle on the Fisht Stadium pitch while his players warmed up ahead of their final training session before tomorrow night’s potentially pivotal game against Sweden. If only his team had exuded such calm and conviction in their opening match against Mexico last Sunday, a result more shocking for the manner of defeat than the actual loss itself, their position at this World Cup would not be so fragile. If Germany lose to Sweden here and Mexico avoid defeat in the earlier game against South Korea, the world champions will become the fourth holders in the past five tournaments to be eliminated at the group stage. In eight tournaments as either assistant coach or head coach of the Germans, Low has never exited before the semi-final stage, but the prospect of joining France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain (2014) on that list of cursed champions looms large. “Of course, as the title holder and as the Confederations Cup winner, the situation we face now is a different one,” Low said. “We’re in a position where everyone is highly motivated and determined to win against us, so it’s very difficult to maintain that motivation and hunger. That’s why in almost 100 years there are not many who have been able to retain the World Cup. World Cup 2018 Simulator Single Game “Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 were not able to dominate and repeat the feat. It’s clearly not easy to achieve it. We have to show a reaction [to the Mexico defeat]. We have to deliver. If we win, we’re back in the race and we’ll see how the tournament progresses after that. But talking about that now makes no sense at all. We cannot look beyond this game.” The fallout from the Mexico debacle has been brutal. Striker Mario Gomez likened the reaction back home to “an avalanche” and even Low admitted there was “a lot to digest” in the 48 hours that followed, although the fiercest criticism probably came from within the camp itself. A crisis meeting was held on Tuesday when frank words were exchanged between the players, Low and his staff and, publicly, there has been no attempt to mask their failings. Low is not prone to knee-jerk reactions but the poverty of his team’s display against Mexico, when they overcommitted in attack and left gaping holes for their opponents to exploit on the transition, clearly shocked him and he could make four or five changes against Sweden. One has been enforced. Mats Hummels damaged a vertebrae in his neck in training and is expected to be replaced by his Bayern Munich team-mate, Niklas Sule. Jonas Hector could come in for Marvin Plattenhardt at left-back, Marco Reus is likely to replace Julian Draxler on the left flank and Ilkay Gundogan may deputise for Sami Khedira. Timo Werner could retain Low’s trust up front, despite Gomez knocking on the door. Mesut Ozil was the target for the most sustained criticism but the Arsenal playmaker received a show of confidence from Low, who, for all his dismay at what he witnessed in Moscow, reminded Germany’s critics that the players were too experienced to allow one poor result to rock their confidence. “We’re all subject to criticism in terms of performance but this deep trust in players who have been playing three or four years at a top level will not be shaken by a single match,” he said. “They’ve won titles, so why should that change on the basis of one match? It’s not just Mesut Ozil, all the players received their fair share of criticism. But as far as Mesut Ozil is concerned, everyone knows I hold him in high esteem. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage “We need people who go deep, vertical, who invest in running the full distance and cutting into opposing lines. We can’t do that by simply pinging the ball into the box. High balls, aerial play, Sweden will thank us for that so we need something different.” Sweden, who beat South Korea 1-0 in their opening match thanks to captain Andreas Granqvist’s penalty, had their own problems on the eve of this match. Defenders Pontus Jansson and Filip Helander and midfielder Marcus Rohden did not travel with the rest of the squad to Sochi this morning after being struck down by a stomach bug overnight. Janne Andersson was keen to avoid the risk of any other players falling ill, but given that the affected trio were not expected to start against Germany anyway, the problem was not as troubling for the Sweden coach as it might otherwise have been. The Swedes, who beat Italy in a play-off to reach the finals in Russia, have struck a bullish tone but Andersson dismissed any notion of overconfidence and urged his team to play the game of their lives. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article “I think hubris is probably what we’re least afflicted by,” Janssen said. “This is what you spend your entire life and career working towards. It’s quite amazing, Germany were the big favourites ahead of tournament but we have the prospect of beating them to [potentially] knock them out and qualify for second stage. I don’t think many people could have imagined that.” Sweden are a defensive, compact, physically imposing side who like to break and try to punish opponents on the counter-attack. Germany had a dreadful time dealing with Mexico’s speed on the transition but Low is confident there will be no repeat. “We’ve talked about that a lot – how can we avoid fast breaks on the counter attack,” he said. “We had numerous matches in qualifying against teams with a very defensive style. I am convinced the players will show a reaction.” They will have to.
The Bayern Munich centre-back is suffering from a neck injury he picked up in training and will not feature in their second World Cup match
Hummels keeping hopes up despite Low ruling him out of Germany clash with Sweden
The Bayern Munich centre-back is suffering from a neck injury he picked up in training and will not feature in their second World Cup match
The Bayern Munich centre-back is suffering from a neck injury he picked up in training and will not feature in their second World Cup match
Hummels keeping hopes up despite Low ruling him out of Germany clash with Sweden
The Bayern Munich centre-back is suffering from a neck injury he picked up in training and will not feature in their second World Cup match
FILE - In this Jan, 27, 2018 file photo Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann arrives for the German Soccer Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Munich and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)
Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann to join Leipzig next year
FILE - In this Jan, 27, 2018 file photo Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann arrives for the German Soccer Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Munich and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in Munich, Germany. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. 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Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Ranking all 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
To captain your national side at a World Cup is the greatest honour available to a footballer, but one with its challenges. While the world scrutinises your every move you must be diplomatic, in control, and above everything else you have to perform. It's where knighthoods are earned, statues are built, and BBC Sports Personality of the year awards are won and lost. Thirty-two players think they're up for it this time around, and of course, they must be ranked. We've looked at leadership, legacy, and sometimes even their skill with a football. Here they are, in all their armband-wearing glory. 32. No captain (Brazil) Brazil's Marcelo captained his side during their opening match at the 2018 Russia World Cup Credit: Michael Regan/FIFA After Neymar renounced the captaincy in 2016, manager Tite decided not to appoint a permanent captain, choosing instead to rotate the responsibility around his team. Nice idea Tite, but we're not buying it, and someone has to come last. 31. Whabi Khazri (Tunisia) Wahbi Khazri in training ahead of Tunisia's opener against England Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters Played for Sunderland during their Premiership relegation season, and became known for running around aimlessly for 10 minutes before coasting to the final whistle. Assumes on-field captaincy duties for Tunisia and at 27 years old there's still time for Khazri to make a name for himself. 30. Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea) Ki Sung-yeung reacts to his sides loss in their opener against Sweden Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP The 2015 Swansea City player of the year comes to Russia without a club after leaving the Welsh side following their relegation to the Championship. Do South Korea have to win the World Cup for him to stay? Doesn't look good after an opening loss to Sweden. 29. John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) John Obi Mikel gives a news conference before their World Cup opening match against Croatia Credit: Vitaly Nevar/Getty Images It feels like John Obi Mikel has been around forever, but remember any of his performances during those 11 years at Chelsea? How good was he against Croatia? Was he there? He's captain, apparently. 28. Hugo Lloris (France) France captain Hugo Lloris during a press conference ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia - All 32 captains at the 2018 Russia World Cup ranked Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images France have three of the four most expensive players of all time, and with more depth than Manchester City's pockets they are rightfully one of the favourites in Russia. But Hugo Lloris, who looks like he's physically incapable of raising his voice, takes the captaincy. We can only assume it's because he's the least likely player to lead another French rebellion a la 2010. 27. Manuel Neuer (Germany) Germany captain Manuel Neuer during his nation's opening match against Mexico Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters Goalies seldom win games, but Manuel Neuer seldom touches the ball. Maybe Joachim Low just wants to give him something to do? Or is it because he so often finds himself in midfield during his wanders from goal? 26. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) Denmark captain Simon Kjaer takes a news conference ahead of their opening match against Peru Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Simon Kjaer's probably a good guy. He's made more than 70 appearances for Denmark, plays football for Sevilla and already has a win for his side at the 2018 Russia World Cup. There's only one thing wrong with him...he's not Christian Eriksen. Sorry Simon. 25. Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) Saudi Arabai captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the 2018 World Cup opening match against Russia Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images It comes to a point where Saudi Arabia are so terrible that you have to give credit to captain Hawsawi for somehow guiding them to a World Cup. The only captain capable of a genuine miracle. He also once put his side 1-0 against Spain's all-conquering 2010 side. Yes, they lost 3-2, but still impressive given what we've seen of Saudi Arabia so far. 24. Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica) Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates after scoring in an international friendly against Belgium Credit: John Thys/AFP Bryan Ruiz is the perfect example of a player who, as soon as he sets foot in an international match, suddenly becomes great. Fulham fans, who watched him scored a paltry 12 goals in 97 league games, will scarcely believe he still plays football, let alone spearheads his nation's strikeforce. After two goals in 2014, Ruiz leads his side out again as they look to reach another quarter-final. 23. Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate salutes supporters during his side's last training session before their opening match Credit: Seyllou/AFP That's right, Kouyate is a captain. Even after a difficult season when his form stuttered for West Ham, he'll lead out the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane and former teammate Diafra Sakho in Russia. One of football's good guys who has spoken openly about his struggles with confidence. An excellent role model, and his side already look a good shout for the second round. 22. Luka Modric (Croatia) Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates scoring a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP Luke Modric is brilliant. Take a look at that Croatian side and tell me anyone who even comes close. However, he's not an enormously popular figure his home country, especially after he was charged with perjury for statements made over the details of his transfer from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham. Nevertheless, seems to be inspiring his side well enough and scored a wonderful goal against Argentina. 21. Makoto Hasebe (Japan) Japan's Makoto Hasebe during a press conference Credit: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters Hasebe has a smile that could calm down Pepe. Two months ago, his job got a lot harder as Japan sacked their manager, but did Hasebe panic? Of course not. He's been Japan's on-field captain for over 8 years, he led his side to the Asia cup in 2011, and on Tuesday Japan became the first Asian country ever to beat a South American nation. 20. Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) Switzerland's Lichtsteiner celebrates after scoring a goal against Iceland during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Ruben Sprich/Reuters Switzerland are the masters of the binary result. They either win 1-0, lose 1-0, or draw 1-1. Defence will always be the most important part of Switzerland's game, and so it makes sense that their best defender is their captain. In the past, he's been at the heart of wins over Spain (yes, 1-0), and was instrumental on Sunday in guiding his side to a draw with favourites Brazil (1-1, obviously). 19. Medhi Benatia (Morocco) Morocco's Medhi Benatia looks on before a friendly against Ukraine Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP Morocco's formation against Portugal on Wednesday was Benatia-Benatia-Benatia. Were there any other players on the pitch? Was he also playing for Portugal? Morocco's on-field captain took his country to their first World Cup since 1998, and he was brilliant, even though his team are already knocked out, 18. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Belgium's Eden Hazard shares a joke with his teammates during a training session at the Olympic Park Arena Credit: AFP/Adrian Dennis Imagine Hazard is your captain and you're new to the Belgium squad. You muscle up the courage to ask him a serious question, perhaps you're worried about about facing Harry Kane. Hazard looks you in the eyes, deadly serious, before pulling that face. I'm not sure what Vincent Kompany has done to upset Roberto Martinez, but Hazard takes the captaincy for Belgium. Luckily for them, he's incredibly good at football. 17. Paolo Guerrero (Peru) Peru's Paolo Guerrero poses for a portrait during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Lars Baron/FIFA Country's all-time leading goalscorer, national hero, and scored the goal that got them a place in the play-offs for Russia. Should be enough to get him into the top 10, but he was suspended for doping for nine months before the tournament. Maybe he's innocent, but the best captains stay out of trouble. Looking at you again, Modric. 16. Igor Akinfeev (Russia) Russia's Igor Akinfeev gives a press conference ahead of a friendly match against Turkey Credit: Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images Never one to shirk international responsibilities, Akinfeev has been Russia's undisputed number 1 since 2005 when he was just 19 years old. He went 11 years without keeping a clean sheet in the Champions League, but like a true captain he never gave up, and was eventually rewarded as CSKA Moscow beat AEK Athens 2-0 in the battle of the acronyms. 15. Roman Torres (Panama) Panama's Roman Torres takes part in training ahead of their world cup opener against Belgium Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP Torres scored a last-minute goal that sent Panama to their first ever World Cup, giving his entire country a day off. Nothing else required to make it into the top half of our list. 14. Radamel Falcao (Colombia) Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates scoring against Brazil during a World Cup qualifier Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP Shocking in England, a hero for Colombia. He's their all-time top goalscorer, and still one of the world's best strikers on his day. 13. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) Serbia's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates winning his group E match against Costa Rica Credit: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand We've seen it so many times. Kolarov readies his left foot and whips the ball into the net from 25 yards. He's a dead ball wizard, and already has a goal at this tournament as he scored the winner in his sides opener against Costa Rica. Comes first on the list of players I'd least like to upset on a Monday. 12. Ashkan Dejagah (Iran) Iran's Ashkan Dejagah poses for a picture during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Dejegah played for Germany U16s, U17s, U18s, U19s, U20s and U21s, and then...Iran. Recognised that Germany have more than enough talent, so opted for playing his international football elsewhere. Already helped seal his country's first World Cup victory in 20 years. 11. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland) Iceland's Aron Gunnarsson celebrates after their opening match against Argentina Credit: Christian Hartmann/Reuters Gylfi Sigurdsson is a set-piece magicia...he's not captain? Apparently it's Cardiff's Aron Gunnarsson who can be credited with leading the tiny nation to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, and now to their first ever world cup finals. All this while balancing football with his job as leader of the night's watch in Game of Thrones. 10. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Sweden's Andreas Granqvist celebrates after scoring in their opening match against Korea Republic Credit: MB Media/Getty Images Sweden's first match of the Russia 2018 World Cup, and they win a penalty. Who should take it? Centre-back Granqvist, who's scored fewer than 10 goals in his entire 14-year career. He steps up to score the goal that wins the match. Turns out he scored three in qualifying too. Zlatan who? 9. Harry Kane (England) England's forward Harry Kane celebrates after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Tunisia and England Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP Without getting carried away, Harry Kane will score loads of goals in Russia and win the World Cup for England, before a statue is erected of the great man alongside Kieran Trippier outside of Wembley. At 24, he's also the youngest captain at the tournament, and inspired the three Lions with his brace against Tunisia. Only one game as captain so far means he only makes tenth. Watch this space. 8. Sergio Ramos Spain's Sergio Ramos looks dejected after conceding the second goal against Portugal Credit: Hannah McKay/Reuters There's a good chance that Sergio Ramos will lead a separatist movement, form a new nation, enter the World Cup, and probably win it. He's football's biggest villain, and a red card magnet. Still, he's won just about everything, and is certainly good enough to make into our top 10. 7. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Poland's Robert Lewandowski poses for a picture during the official Fifa World Cup 2018 portrait session Credit: Stuart Franklin/FIFA Top scorer in qualifying with 16 goals, Lewandowski is far and away the best Poland have...and may ever have. The Bayern Munich man is the nation's star, lethal in front of goal, and one of the few Polish players whose name commentators pronounce correctly. 6. Mile Jedinak (Australia) Australia's Mile Jedinak gives a thumbs up towards the fans after their World Cup 2018 defeat to France Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP A thankless task. Captaining the Australia football team makes him the country's fifth most important sports captain, everywhere else he'd get the appreciation he deserves. Scored a penalty against France on Saturday, and another one on Thursday, but does anyone know? I'm giving him some overdue recognition. 5. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates after his side win their group A opener against Egypt in the 2018 World Cup Credit: Mark Baker/AP The definition of a defensive stalwart. Godin could organise my local five-a-side team into a World Cup-winning defence. He's a master at the back, and does it all whilst somehow keeping Luis Suarez under control. 4. Rafael Marquez (Mexico) Mexico Rafael Marquez celebrates victory against Germany in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Mike Hewitt/FIFA As he approaches his 78th birthday, Rafael Marquez still has time to captain the Mexico side at the World Cup. Okay, he's not that old, but what a player and still called upon to see out a clean sheet against Germany. Even from defence, he's managed to score in three separate World Cups. Fourth on the way? 3. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Argentina's Lionel Messi goes down against Iceland in their 2018 World Cup opener Credit: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters Okay, let's not carried away with the result against Croatia. Messi has still dragged his country through qualifying and sealed their spot in Russia with a c hat-trick against Ecuador. They're rubbish without him, and yet with him they've reached four major finals in the past 10 years. Can he finally win something? The hopes of a nation lay entirely on his tiny shoulders. 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's first goal during their 2018 World Cup opener against Russia Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Love him or hate him, he ticks every box. He's his country's best player, all time top goalscorer, most appearances ever, led them to Euro 2016 glory, and scored a brilliant hat-trick against Spain in their opening match of this World Cup. Right now, somewhere, someone is making another dodgy statue of the great man. 1. Essam El Hadary (Egypt) Egypt's Essam El Hadary celebrates Egypt's World Cup qualification win over Congo Credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters Shock, I know, but Egypt's captain has seen it all in his 152 appearances. At the age of 45, he's guided his country to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He's the oldest player in World Cup history, he's our number one captain. His great grandchildren must be so proud. 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